Saturday, March 03, 2007

Bangladesh immunises 24 million children against polio

Sat Mar 3, 2:45 AM ET

DHAKA (AFP) - More than 700,000 health workers fanned out across Bangladesh on Saturday to immunise 24 million children against polio after the disease made a surprise comeback last year, an official said.

Since January last year, 17 new cases of the disease have been reported, prompting the latest campaign. Before that, no new cases had been declared since 2000, when the government carried out a series of immunisation drives.

Across Bangladesh, parents queued for the polio vaccines to be administered to their children at more than 140,000 health centres, the government's immunisation programme manager Abdul Qader said.

"We were worried about weather because there were rains in much of the country yesterday. But today the weather is perfect. We hope we will achieve our target of immunising 24 million under-five children today," he added.

All the country's non-government organisations were roped in to help with the massive immunisation drive, and hundreds of thousands of mosques and temples used to spread the message.

"Out of the five-man team in every centre, three are members of NGOs. We have joined forces to eradicate polio from Bangladesh," he added.

Volunteers will visit door-to-door in the next four days to vaccinate children, and mobile immunisation teams will be sent to bus and railway stations, airports and brothels.

The government has laid special emphasis on immunising children along the border with India, which has a large number of new polio cases.

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